ON April 18, along with the Marianas Visitors Authority board members, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, leaders from our government agencies and other tourism stakeholders, I hopped on a bus to participate in a Destination Transformation Inspection Tour organized by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. We traveled to Marpi to inspect popular tourist sites such as the Grotto, Bird Island, Last Command Post, and Banzai Cliff.

As we approached each site, we were surprised to see that there were already tourists taking pictures and enjoying the sites. Because we have gone through few natural disasters, the sites need major repairs to address visible safety concerns. One example was at Banzai Cliff, where we noticed a broken railing near the cliff line. As a group, we were able to share ideas and identify ways to improve our most popular sites for all to enjoy and to provide a more positive and memorable travel experience for our visitors.

Travelers are dreaming about long-distance travel and memorable holidays. Many factors that influence tourism are outside our control, and that is why it is even more critical for the Marianas to be strategic, quick to respond, and united in a long-term vision of what experiences we want to offer visitors when they visit our shores.

As an industry leader for more than 40 years in the Marianas,  MVA is grateful that key agencies and partners fully support transformation efforts to make the Marianas a world-class destination. Every part of our islands is part of our tourism product, so everyone has a role to play. This is an effective approach to maintaining the beauty of our home and our destination for the future. The great thing about partnering up to improve our destination is that it benefits both tourists and locals. This is another example of how “tourism is everybody’s business.”

As tourism reopens, we are well aware that we cannot rely solely on the South Korea market. MVA has formed a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan Ad Hoc committee, and we have been actively communicating with our Japan travel partners on the reopening of Japan. Largely due to the recent easing of their strict government travel restrictions, we are now receiving positive responses from our travel partners that there is a growing demand for travel from this market. We have reactivated our MVA Japan representation office to full service after several months of limited service due to the Covid-19 situation. Marketing plans are being developed to include the launching of air service, support from travel agencies, and tie-up and consumer promotions. We expect to receive flights from Japan sometime in the next few months, and we will warmly welcome back these long-time friends of the Marianas.

Though we have been pushing for more tourists to come to the Marianas to enjoy these sites, GCEA Co-Chairman Jerry Tan said something that stayed with me throughout the tour. Chairman Tan said that every time he’s been up in Marpi, he’s seen Marianas’ residents enjoying picnics at the sites. For this and many other reasons, there is a greater sense of urgency to push for Destination Transformation projects.

Under GCEA, MVA will continue to serve as the government liaison for permitting related to the projects undertaken by our private partners. We appreciate their ongoing commitment and support. There are additional projects to address immediately, especially those regarding safety. We welcome the public’s feedback on the MVA Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2021-2031. You can find the report on MVA’s website at https://www.mymarianas.com/reports/mva-strategic-plan-toward-sustainable-tourism-industry-2021-2031/2021/08/04                                                                            

After almost two years of uncertainties due to Covid, we can never be 100% clear on what the future of travel looks like. Last April, MVA board members and staff, Governor Torres, local dignitaries, and members of the community proclaimed May 2022 as Marianas Tourism Month. This year’s theme is “The Future of Travel,” which emphasizes MVA’s 10-year Strategic Plan Toward a Sustainable Tourism Industry, where the future of travel includes a modern, sustainable, and successful tourism industry achieved through integrated resource planning and management.

We will continue to support our GCEA partners and engage our partners and stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors. At the same time, we will extend our efforts to forge new partnerships. Happy Marianas Tourism Month!

For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at gceacnmi@gmail.com

Priscilla Maratita Iakopo is the managing director of the Marianas Visitors Authority. She leads the promotion and development of the Northern Mariana Islands as a premier destination of choice for visitors around the world while providing a maximum quality of life for the people of the Marianas.

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